#10 – ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’
This is a respectful nod to the late-career Elton John. The balladeer. The philanthropist. The family man. Our No. 10 pick is one of his biggest hits from the past three decades. It’s the Oscar winner. The Grammy winner. The crown jewel from “The Lion King” and perennial wedding song anthem. With lyrics by Tim Rice, the single sold 11 million copies around the world. It’s hard to deny its power and its popularity.
#9 – ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’
This is a respectful nod to mid-career Elton John. After his superstar years in the 1970s, John’s 1980s output has been largely overshadowed. Too bad. Because “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and “I’m Still Standing” are both solid singles. However, in our No. 9 pick, we’re quite high on this beloved ballad from 'Too Low for Zero'. After a brief break, Elton John and Bernie Taupin were back together as a songwriting team. And no surprise, the album—with the help with this single—returned John to platinum-selling status. Plus, it features Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
#8 – ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’
The No. 8 song on our list is Elton John’s first No. 1 song in the U.K. (and 6th in the U.S.). The 1976 Kiki Dee duet is pure cotton candy, Motown style, arriving during the height of the disco era. It was written differently from almost every other John/Taupin tune. Elton came up with the title first and then Bernie conjured up the lyrics. Also, just because it’s a duet, it wasn’t recorded as one. Elton John sang his part in Toronto while Kiki added her vocals later in London (mimicking Elton who sang her lines in a higher register).
#7 – ‘Your Song’
We’re going back to the beginning for the No. 7 pick on our list. “Our Song” followed the gospel ballad, “Border Song,” from his first U.S. release, 'Elton John', to become Elton’s first top-10 hit. The tender love song was meant to be a B-side but radio stations preferred it to the A-side, “Take Me to the Pilot". Bernie Taupin says he wrote the lyrics as a 17-year-old teen on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s house. Simple lyrics plus simple melody equals simple perfection. John Lennon declared it as a sign of the next big thing to come after the Beatles.
#6 – 'Bennie and the Jets'
Our No. 6 song is the first entry from Elton John's greatest album. Honestly, we could do a top-10 list just from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' and it would be a solid list. It's about a futuristic band of androids fronted by an androgynous beauty. Soul and R&B stations loved it so much John became one of the few white artists ever to perform on "Soul Train". By the way, the audience you hear on the track doesn't come from an Elton John concert. Rather, it's applause from a Jimi Hendrix show on the Isle of Wight. Trippy.
#5 – 'Levon'
If "Your Song" made Elton John a star, "Levon" proved he was not a one-hit wonder. Our No. 5 entry comes from 1971's 'Madman Across the Water'. In dry terms, it's a song about escape and obstinately not following in your father's footsteps. But under Taupin's pen, it's also loaded with magical imagery about cartoon balloons, and Venus, and the Vietnam War, and a little bit of blasphemy from the 'New York Times'. It also marks one of the strongest vocal performances from Elton John's entire career.
#4 – 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'
Another powerhouse performance impacts our No. 4 song, the title track from Elton John's greatest and bestselling album of all time (with an estimated 31 million copies sold around the world). While John & Taupin cover many genres from the pop music world (particularly on this album), it's the ballads that routinely cement the pair as master songwriters. And this ballad is one of their best. After the couple's rocket-fuelled rise to fame and excess, this song finds Bernie already yearning for simpler times, and Elton pouring his heart out. And the "Wizard of Oz" reference doesn't hurt.
#3 – 'Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting'
Our final song from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' blows the doors off at No. 3. This is where the balladeer finally rocks out with a guitar-driven anthem about the ultimate (albeit violent) night on the town. After a lot of American-style yearning in previous hits, this blazing rocker is pure British thuggery with a snarling Elton wailing on the keyboard. Unlike almost every other Elton song, the piano parts were added later. And despite all its rock 'n' roll bluster, it was actually recorded in a subpar recording studio in Jamaica!
No. 2 – 'Rocket Man'
We're back to the ballads for our No. 2 song from Elton John's first No. 1 album in the U.S., 'Honky Chateau'. Inspired by a Ray Bradbury short story, this poignant song about loneliness is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Much like David Bowie's "Space Oddity," "Rocket Man" wraps its arms around the listener pining for his family while drifting alone in outer space. This song perfectly captures the charm of Elton and Bernie's unique partnership. It's never just about the story; it's also about the emotion behind the story. Is it any wonder the Elton John biopic is named after it?
#1 – 'Tiny Dancer'
Our No. 1 song was released as a single exactly one month before our No. 2 song (although from John's previous album, 'Madman Across the Water'). Taupin says "Tiny Dancer" was about the California women he met during his first visit to America. Allow me to translate: It's about the groupies that both "motivate" and mother their favourite musicians. So of course Cameron Crowe used it as the feature song in his ode to rock 'n' roll life, "Almost Famous". It's now a legendary sing-along. Go ahead, play it at your next gathering and watch everyone sing full throttle during the chorus—even though at least person will belt out the words "Tony Danza" and think they're hilarious. But that's not Elton John's fault.